On Friday, the government reported that the economy grew by an annualized 2.5 percent during the first quarter. As I noted in Part 1 (at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog), three establishment press outlets (CNN, Bloomberg, and Reuters) pronounced the result "disappointing" -- but not Martin Crutsinger and Christopher Rugaber at the Associated Press, whose headline read "AFTER NEAR-STALL IN LATE 2012, US ECONOMY PICKS UP," and whose content described the economy as having "quickened its pace" as "the strongest consumer spending in two years fueled a 2.5 percent annual growth rate in the January-March quarter."
It turns out that the AP pair's enthusiasm was not only not shared at other news organizations. It wasn't even shared within AP, as will be seen after the jump.
On Friday, the government reported that the economy grew by an annualized 2.5 percent during the first quarter. The awful 0.4 percent result seen in the fourth quarter was largely sloughed off as caused by a number of one-time factors. Analysts convinced themselves that reported first-quarter growth would come in at 3.0 percent or slightly higher in Friday's release. Instead, we saw what Zero Hedge noted was the biggest such expectations miss since September 2011.
As a result, at least three establishment press organizations pronounced the result disappointing -- except for two business reporters at the Associated Press whose names are virtual fixtures here.
On February 28, though he hedged a bit, Martin Crutsinger at the Associated Press, aka the Administration's Press, wrote the following about prospects for economic growth: "The only impediment may be the across-the-board government spending cuts that kick in Friday — especially if those cuts remain in place for months."
Having established the template, the self-described Essential Global News Network has apparently decided that they need to do all they can to promote it. After today's sharp decline in consumer confidence as reported by the Conference Board, AP reporter Marcy Gordon's related dispatch opened with a whine about "massive government spending cuts," tried to reinforce her claim in a later paragraph, and saved contradictory information for an even later one (bolds are mine throughout this post):
Today, on the third anniversary of the enactment of state-managed healthcare, aka the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), aka ObamaCare, it's worth noting a precursor of what we can expect from the establishment press as the law's implementation presses on. It can be summed up in eight words: "Hype the alleged good. Ignore the obviously bad." Distilled in four words: "Toe the administration line."
Two examples of how the press is ignoring the obviously bad came from the Associated Press, aka the Administration's Press, in its March 6 caoverage of the contents of the Federal Reserve's "beige book" released that day. The Fed's report contained five specific comments, four of them negative and one neutral, about the current and imminent impact of ObamaCare. None made it into either AP report. Many other outlets also ignored or minimized those comments.
Crutsinger described the past four months as a "hiring spree," and the job market as "accelerating." Even sticking with the seasonally adjusted figures, that doesn't stand up well, given that there was a big revised dip in job additions in January. Second, he contended that "Hiring would be rising even faster if governments weren't shrinking their workforces, as they have been for nearly four years" -- as if government hiring and the higher taxes which would accompany it at the state and local levels or the higher amount of deficit financing required at the federal level would have no effect on private employers' rate of hiring. And no establishment press report would be complete without moaning about how goverment employment continues to contract ever so slightly and how impending spending "cuts" which aren't cuts at all threaten the current wondrous conditions. That's not all, of course.
On Thursday, the government reported that the economy didn't contract by a tiny annualized 0.1 percent in the fourth quarter of 2012 as originally reported. Instead, the nation's gross domestic product (GDP) expanded by an equally tiny 0.1 percent. Expectations had been that the revision would go positive by an annualized 0.5 percent.
According to Martin Crutsinger at the Associated Press, aka the Administration's Press, "the only impediment" to the economy resuming annualized growth of 2 percent or so (which is actually unimpressive in historical context) "may be the across-the-board government spending cuts that kick in Friday - especially if those cuts remain in place for months." In Crutsinger's world, the payroll tax increase which kicked in on January 1, gas prices which have risen nationally to about $3.70 per gallon from $3.25 in the past 45 days, and troubling January and early-February sales results at Wal-Mart don't matter. There's also an obvious problem seen in his third and fourth paragraphs (bolds are mine):
You've got to hand it to the headline writers at the Associated Press, aka the Administration's Press. They sure know how to abuse their power to shape public perceptions.
The headline at Martin Crutsinger's report this morning on projected economic growth for 2013, which the wire service is treating as this morning's "Big Story," reads: "ECONOMISTS PREDICTING MODERATE GROWTH IN 2013." Many people using computers, tablets and smartphones will see that headline, conclude that the economy's not so bad, and move on without clicking through. Too bad Crutsinger's first two paragraphs directly contradict that headline.
Crutsinger also erroneously reported that the government turned in its first monthly surplus since April of last year (no, it was really September of last year), told readers that "the government is spending less on some programs" without telling them that total year-to-date spending so far is up by over 3 percent compared the first four months of fiscal 2012, and made it appear as if "higher taxes for some Americans" are narrowing the budget gap a bit, when the fiscal cliff raised taxes for every employed and self-employed person who pays into the Social Security system. Other than that, he did a good job (/sarc). Exceprts follow the jump (bolds and numbered tags are mine):
In his coverage of the Conference Board's Consumer Confidence report released earlier today, the Associated Press's Martin Crutsinger conveniently avoided using quote marks when he wrote that "Conference Board economist Lynn Franco said the tax increase was the key reason confidence tumbled in January, making Americans less optimistic about the next six months." That isn't what Franco said.
Crutsinger also -- finally -- told AP readers and subscribers what other reporters and commentators have been saying for about two weeks, namely that analysts' estimates of economic growth in tomorrow's government report on gross domestic product are a for a very weak annualized 1%.
The real news in today's new-home sales information published by the Census Bureau is that September's previously reported 389,000 in seasonally adjusted annual sales was written down by over 5 percent to 369,000. Hmm -- The higher figure, aggressively touted as the highest in 2-1/2 years by the Associated Press and other establishment media outlets, was reported on October 24, just 13 days before Election Day on November 6. Now we learn that it was a mirage, and that the revised figure was merely the same as the number turned in four months earlier and barely above February. In fact, the new home market, portrayed throughout the summer and early fall as recovering somewhat nicely, merely treaded water. That trend continued in October, as annualized sales came in at 368,000. Imagine that.
To his credit, the Associated Press's Martin Crutsinger at least acknowledged the major prior-month revision in each of his first two paragraphs; however, the AP's headline writers ignored it. To Crutsinger's detriment, it's clear that he tried very hard to find someone who would pin a major portion of the blame for October's 0.3 percent drop on Superstorm Sandy. When he couldn't, he decided to take it on himself to make the point (bolds are mine):
Well, there's one little bit of good news in Martin Crutsinger's final report on yesterday's release of the federal government's October Monthly Treasury Statement (I did a review of his initial take yesterday [at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog]). The good news is that Crutsinger, unlike in most months during the past several years I have reviewed such reports, actually identified the single-month amount of money the federal government spent in October, namely $304 billion. We'll see if he continues the practice of reporting single-month spending amounts in future months.
The rest of Crutsinger's coverage is typically pathetic and predictable. He failed to correctly define what the deficit really is for his readers, understated the impact on fiscal 2013 of any tax or spending decisions the President and Congress might agree on, ignored the likelihood that receipts in teh coming year are likely coming back to levels last seen in fiscal 2007 (meaning that virtually the entire problem facing the country has to do with spending, not collections), and engaged in the seemingly required exercise of blaming George W. Bush for running deficits (not disclosed as far smaller) and conducting wars Congress agreed to fight before Obama came into office. As I said, typically pathetic and predictable.
The government's October 2012 Monthly Treasury Statement was released at 2 p.m. It tells us that the government took in $184 billion ($21 billion more than last year) while spending $304 billion ($43 billion more), leaving a $120 billion deficit. That's 22% higher than the October 2011 shortfall of $98.5 billion.
The early report from the Associated Press's Martin Crustinger predictably tells us that discussions over changing this ongoing situation and addressing the "fiscal cliff" involve how "to prevent tax increases and deep spending cuts from kicking in Jan. 1." "Deep"? October 2012 spending annualizes out to $3.65 trillion, which if continued, as seen in comparison to figures for the past five years which follow, would be an all-time record.
Once again, a reporter from the Associated Press, aka the Administration's Press, has told a major fib about the situation in the new-home construction industry, thereby vastly exaggerating its degree of improvement -- claiming a 60% surge during the past nearly 3-1/2 years when it has been 15% at most.
Today's figures from the Census Bureau on housing starts weren't terrible, but they surely weren't cause for major optimism -- except at the AP, where Martin Crutsinger cited "steady progress in the housing recovery" and committed the same serious mistake other AP writers have made (examples here, here, and here), namely pretending that the term "housing starts" has the same meaning as "home construction."
Today, per Nasdaq.com, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose by 4.49 points to 13107.48, the S&P 500 went up 1.19 points to 1410.49, and the NASDAQ gained 4.05 points to close at 3081.19. The average of the three gains is less than 0.1%.
That didn't stop the disseminators of CNN Money's email at the close of business from interpreting the result as being due to "signs of stronger U.S.growth." Huh?
It's becoming increasingly clear that the Associated Press, aka the Administration's Press, believes there are two primary kinds of users of its output: those who only read headlines and those who read on or click through. It often dresses up the headlines with inaccuracies, omissions, and occasional downright falsehoods, which more often than not are respectively rendered properly, included, and stated truthfully (or at least sort of close) in the actual content.
It's hard to find a more stark example of a contradiction between an AP headline and its underlying content than Martin Crutsinger's late afternoon report Friday following that morning's Gross Domestic Product report:
Today's report on the growth of gross domestic product (GDP) during the second quarter didn't impress anyone -- except, apparently those who send out email alerts to CNN Money subscribers.
For several years, it has seemed like the primary goal of these alerts has been to create the illusion of pervasive prosperity when the economic news is even remotely tolerable, and to ignore or downplay news that is really bad -- all so that the relatively disengaged can be convinced that the economy isn't performing as poorly as it really is. The email alert received shortly after the government released its report showing that the economy grew at an annualized 1.5% rate during the second quarter arguably fits both categories:
Uncle Sam's June Treasury Statement released today told us that with three months remaining in the 2012 fiscal year the government has already run up a deficit of over $900 billion. According to the Associated Press's Martin Crutsinger, Americans should see that as a "positive sign," because "deficit is growing more slowly than last year."
During the final three months of fiscal 2011, the government ran a deficit of $326 billion, which is why the following statement found in Crutsinger's Thursday afternoon report is such a howler:
Not only is the Associated Press aptly currently described as the Administration's Press -- as least as long as the White House's current occupant remains there -- it also seems to be serving as the Administration's Protection.
In a story about the "Lie-bor" scandal, wherein British banks have admitted to colluding to set the London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) -- arguably the world’s most important benchmark for interest rates -- artificially low, AP reporter Martin Crutsinger "somehow" forgot that current Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner was President of the New York Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank during much of the time period in which Congressional investigators are interested. Clearly, they want to know what Geithner knew, and when he knew it. The first three paragraphs of Crutsinger's writeup, followed by his sole context-free mention of Geithner, follow the jump (bolds are mine throughout this post):
The establishment press often pays a price in lost credibility when it ignores important economic reports. The original omission is bad enough, of course. But when subsequent business coverage makes assertions which the ignored reports directly refute, it leaves you wondering why you should even try to believe anything they compose.
Such is the case with Martin Crutsinger's report today on the Institute for Supply Management's Non Manufacturing Index (NMI). Following on the heels of Monday's Manufacturing Index, which slipped into contraction (as perceived by surveyed purchasing managers) for the first time in three years, the NMI declined but at least remained in (perceived) expansion mode. In the course of describing current economic conditions, Crutsinger made the following erroneous statement:
At the Associated Press today, trying to build an impression of momentum where there isn't very much, Martin Crutsinger, concerning today's Census Bureau release of May new-home sales data, wrote that, "Americans bought new homes in May at the fastest pace in more than two years. The increase suggests a modest recovery is continuing in the U.S. housing market, despite weaker job growth."
We've been through this before. The rest of Crutsinger's report quoted no expert to support his "modest recovery" claim as it relates to sales volume. Thus, it is his opinion. Readers don't care what your opinion is, Marty. As I suggested in connection with another AP report earlier this month -- "Stick to the facts, sir, and resist the urge to inject your thinly disguised perspective (I would say "shut up," but I'm trying to be nice)." Speaking of facts, the AP's headline is deceptive. Since it hasn't changed in about 12 hours, I assume that the wire service either doesn't understand why it's wrong, or doesn't care.
To illustrate how factually negligent this afternoon's report by Martin Crutsinger at the Associated Press on the federal government's financial results embodied in its Monthly Treasury Statement was, let's take a look at how Pedro Nicolaci da Costa at Reuters communicated more in a four-sentence brief than the AP reporter did in 18 painful paragraphs.
After the jump is a graphic from Investor's Business Daily comparing post-recession consumer confidence readings from the Conference Board during the Reagan and Obama administrations. See it there or see it below, because you probably won't see it at any establishment press web site or in any of their publications.
What's remarkable about the graphic is how confidence was able to stay at or above 100 (a reading of 90 is considered the "healthy economy" benchmark) in the face of a virtually non-stop media onslaught which alternatively tried to deny the existence of the ongoing prosperity, constantly warned that another recession was just around the corner, or whined about how supposedly unfair the economy was becoming (Keep in mind that the Media Research Center didn't appear on the scene until 1987) -- which is quite different from the current establishment media cheerleading which occurs seemingly any time there's the least little sign that things might be getting better.
To be fair, the full text of what Martin Crutsinger at the Associated Press wrote in the first sentence of what I believe was the final version of his report today on the Census Bureau's new-home sales release was that "Americans bought more new homes last month, the latest evidence that the U.S. housing market could be starting to recover." The other "evidence" he cited related to a small bump reported earlier this week in existing home sales and one homebuilder's improved financial results.
That's pretty thin gruel from which to paint a "could be starting to recover" scenario, especially when it's expressed by someone who isn't a housing expert, i.e., an AP reporter. The only expert Crutsinger cited told him that "Housing could be a pleasant surprise this year." Wow. How profound. Let's take a look at some quotes from experts Thomson Reuters was able to find. Readers will note that the variations on word "bottom" occur quite frequently (quotes are not in the same order as they appeared at the link):
On Tuesday morning at 8:30 a.m. ET, the Commerce Department reported that seasonally adjusted U.S. retail sales in April rose by 0.1%. In an 11:12 a.m. report via the Associated Press, aka the Administration's Press, carried at the Detroit News ("U.S. consumers hold back retail sales, even as gas prices fall"), Martin Crutsinger was appropriately not impressed: "Lower gas prices in April weren't enough to embolden U.S. consumers to spend much more elsewhere. The Commerce Department said retail sales rose only 0.1 percent last month."
Look how things changed in a late afternoon AP report currently carried at its national site co-authored by Crutsinger and Christopher Rugaber, reworked in time to go into most newspapers' print editions Wednesday morning:
Here's a word which the Associated Press's Martin Crutsinger only used once in his coverage last Thursday of Uncle Sam's April 2012 Treasury Statement: "debt." And when he did, he was quoted someone about Europe's situation.
To his credit, the AP reporter wasn't particularly impressed with the fact that the government was able to run a single-month surplus of $59 billion in April. To his detriment, he didn't note that somehow, the national debt also went up by $110 billion:
On Friday evening, it was Christopher Rugaber and Paul Wiseman. Today it's Martin Crutsinger. Together with Derek Kravitz (who isn't in on the latest offense -- yet), perhaps the just-named quartet of alleged journalists should be named "The Four Distortsmen."
Today, it was Crutsinger who, in the wake of a mediocre report on consumer spending, again invoked "government budget-cutting as the primary culprit explaining why the economy only grew by an estimated annualized 2.2% during the first quarter:
In his report on the February 2012 monthly federal deficit on March 12, Christopher Rugaber at the Associated Press (aka the Administration's Press) told readers that the month's deficit was $232 billion, but "somehow" forgot to tell readers that it was an all-time record for a single month in U.S. government history.
Well, there's good news, much worse news, and an utterly predictable agenda-driven item in the AP's coverage of March's deficit, this time courtesy of the wire service's Martin Crutsinger. The good news is that Crutsinger recognized that March's deficit was the highest on record for any March. The much worse news is that, as I forecast AP and others would do at my home blog last last week when the Congressional Budget Office estimated March's results, he failed to tell readers that March's spending of $369.37 billion was the highest single-month amount ever recorded by $30.32 billion -- a whopping 8.9% above the previous record of 339.05 billion set in March 2011. The increase is largely due to the fact that checks for many April 1 items were written on March 30 because April 1 was a Sunday, but a record is a record, and failing to recognize one (and only then trying to explain it away if there is cause for it) is shoddy journalism. The utterly predictable agenda-driven item is after the jump.
On Tuesday (at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog), I noted how the Associated Press's headlined assessments at Anne D'Innocenzio's reports throughout the day on the Conference Board's monthly consumer confidence survey went from "falls" to "dips slightly" to "roughly flat" before ending up at "rosy" -- an evaluation the AP reporter also included in the verbiage of her final dispatch. For the record, the confidence measurement fell to 70.2 in March from 71.6 in February. Bloomberg's final report for the day also obfuscated, with a headline of "Consumer Confidence in U.S. Holds Close to One-Year High" and an opening sentence which read: "Confidence among U.S. consumers in March held close to the highest level in a year, underpinned by an improving labor market" -- anything to keep any indication of drop out of what most people would see. Along the same lines, Rush Limbaugh also picked on Reuters Tuesday for saying that confidence only "eased."
The University of Michigan's Consumer Sentiment Survey came out today. The press release's opening sentence: "Consumer confidence edged upward as more favorable income and job trends offset rising gas prices." Its value (with a different scale) went from 75.3 to 76.2. That's also "roughly" flat, isn't it? Don't be silly. All three wires said that an increase smaller than Tuesday's Conference Board decrease was an unqualified "rise."
In two items about today's report on economic growth from the federal government's Bureau of Economic Analysis today, Martin Crutsinger claimed that today's lower-than-expected annualized growth of 2.8% during the fourth quarter of 2011 (vs. expectations of 3% or higher) was hurt because of big "cuts" in government spending, especially federal spending -- supposedly the biggest cuts in 40 years. I guess the underlying message is supposed to be that Congress shouldn't try to reduce federal programs any more, because already they're allegedly being cut at historic rates.
Baloney. Crutsinger was either being incredibly ignorant by assuming that all government spending is part of GDP (it's not; only government purchases of goods and services are components of GDP), or he deliberately deceived his readers. At the federal level, purchases of goods and services and "investment" are only about 30% of all government spending. Total spending has hardly gone down at all. Here are the relevant paragraphs from his two reports: